|Alice Cooper character|
The Last Temptation cover
|First appearance||Welcome to My Nightmare (1975)|
|Last appearance||Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)|
|Created by||Alice Cooper|
|Featured on||Welcome to My Nightmare |
Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
The Last Temptation
Along Came a Spider
Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Steven is a fictional character invented by the rock artist Alice Cooper. He appears on the albums Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976), DaDa (1983), Hey Stoopid (1991), The Last Temptation (1994), Dragontown (2001), Along Came A Spider (2008), and Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011).
Welcome to My Nightmare
Steven appears for the first time on the concept album Welcome To My Nightmare. The listener understands that Steven is - or has the mind of - a young boy, maybe around 8 years old. The album is a journey through Steven's mind, which is severely damaged. He lives in a constant nightmare, and we are guided through this nightmare by The Curator (played by Vincent Price). In the first song on the album, the title track, we are introduced to the nightmare. On the second song, “Devils Food”, Steven is trapped in a spider's web and is about to be eaten by The Black Widow. The spider and the web (and the whole nightmare) are only in his mind, some sort of mental disease, so Steven thinks he has to obey The Black Widow, to get away alive. Steven says:
“These words he speaks are true. We're all humanary stew, if we don't pledge allegiance to… The Black Widow”
The next song on the album is called "Some Folks," and reading between the lines, one can understand that the song is about how Steven enjoys killing women and possibly making love to their dead bodies;
“Some folks love to see red/ Some folks never talk about it/ Some folks crave a blue lady/ Some folks know and still they doubt it.”
And then we learn of Steven’s abuse of his wife. The song “Only Women Bleed” tells us this. It has been suggested that the song “Cold Ethyl” is indicative of Steven’s lust for the dead, where Steven might be supposed to be having sex with a woman’s (Ethyl’s) corpse. However, considering the imagery of the song, specifically the refrigerator, it seems more reasonable to suggest that the song is an ode to alcoholism; Ethyl is likely a personification of distilled liquor (ethyl alcohol). The next thing that is revealed to the listener is of Steven’s childhood and how he became the psycho killer we now know. In “Years Ago” we understand that Steven was alone as a child, and maybe that he feels rejected by friends and adults. The song “Steven” shows his transformation from an innocent child to a murderer.
“I don't want to feel you die, but if that's the way that God has planned you/ I'll put pennies on your eyes and it will go away, see?/ You've only lived a minute of your life/ I must be dreaming.
Obviously some one has died. Maybe it’s Steven’s young mother, maybe his baby brother or, most likely, it’s the young Steven – the innocent. In the end of the previous song, “Years Ago” we hear the child-Steven talking to himself, as an old man:
“ - I'm a little boy (young Steven) - No, I'm a great big man (old man Steven) - No, let's be a little boy. For a little while longer. Maybe an hour? (young Steven) - No, Steven. We have to go back now (old man Steven) “
These lines support the theory that it is in fact the young Steven – Steven’s childhood and innocence – that has died. So who is he telling to stop screaming (“I must be dreaming, please stop screaming”)? It could be Steven who is screaming, because he is grief-stricken that his childhood has died. And he is in fact, pleading with himself to stop screaming. Another interpretation of this could be that it’s again, the child Steven, that is screaming – the childhood’s death-rattle. There is also a third possibility that it is the Curator that is screaming. The refrain to the song “Steven” goes like this:
“Steven!/ Steven! I hear my name! Steven! Is someone calling me? I hear my name! Steven! That icy breath it whispers screams of pain!”
The voice that chants “Steven! Steven!” is probably his wife, as he is killing her. This means that Steven could be beseeching her to stop screaming. After we have taken part of Steven’s transformation, he wakes up. Until now, we are unsure if the nightmare is a real nightmare (just a bad dream) or in fact part of Steven’s mental disease. But in the song “The Awakening” we understand that during the nightmare, Steven has killed his wife.
“Getting up from my easy chair looking for my wife/ Following a trail of crimson spots that lead into the night/ Suddenly I realize/ I see it all through real eyes/ These crimson spots are dripping from my hand/ And, ooh, it makes me feel like a man”
From this we can draw the conclusion that the nightmare occurred when Steven was sleepwalking but not knowing what was real or what was his imagination, he abused his wife during “Only Women Bleed”, made love to her corpse during “Cold Ethyl” and then sat down in his easy chair, “waking up” and at first thinking that everything was a bad dream. But then he realizes what he has done. As a result of this he escapes into drinking alcohol, which takes place in "Escape":
“Escape/ I get out when I can/ Escape/ Anytime I can/ Let’s all escape/ I'm crying in my beer/ C'mon let's escape/ Just get me out of here”
Wind Up Toy
In the last song on the 1991 album Hey Stoopid, we once again meet Steven. In the song “Wind-Up Toy” we learn that he is imprisoned in a mental hospital and that his only friends are the insects, rats and his toys on the floor. He has a rubber bat and a rubber ball that he likes to sleep with at night. This tells us that he still has the mind of a little boy. Obviously it was a great tragedy for Steven to become an adult. Maybe something happened that forced him to act like an adult, before he was mature enough for it. It could possibly be that his parents rejected him;
“Daddy won't discuss me/ What a state I must be/ Mommy couldn't stand living with a wind-up toy!”
Steven feels that he never had the chance to be a child, that he grew up too fast, that because of this he acts like a child and probably thinks that he still is one.
“Preacher crucifies me/ Warden wants to fry me/ I was never young/ Never just a little boy”
It is also hinted that Steven still is haunted by the nightmare from Welcome to My Nightmare, and possibly also the Curator:
“I'm lost in a nightmare"
The Last Temptation
This album is the follow-up to Welcome To My Nightmare, but at a first glance the story is not very coherent with its predecessor from 1975. Steven does not appear to be mentally ill or a murderer. Here he is the young boy he wants to be on Welcome to My Nightmare. It could possibly be that The Last Temptation is some sort of prequel to Welcome to My Nightmare. However, the story goes like this: Steven is bored and want to do something fun. He meets The Showman (who is similar to the Curator) who offers to let him watch the sideshow (“Sideshow”). Steven agrees to go with him, but The Showman tells him that in exchange for a good time at the theatre (the title "Theatre of the Real," is revealed in the comic based on this album) he must sell his soul to him. This is described in the song “Nothing's Free”. The listener starts to understand that The Showman may be the Devil, who is trying to lure Steven to give into his temptation. During the song “Lost In America” the Showman shows Steven how depressing and dull the boy’s life is and will be, and by doing this, Steven gets more and more tempted to accept his offer. Going further, The Showman shows Steven the backstreets of America, where the bodies of dead criminal lowlifes talk to him ("Bad Place Alone"). By showing Steven this, The Showman is telling him how his life is going to get if he chooses to stay in the real world, and not going with him. The haunting dead criminals chant to Steven:
“Hey blood brother, you're one of our own/ You're as sharp as a razor and as hard as a stone/ Hey blood brother, you're bad to the bone/ You're a natural killer in a bad place alone”
After showing Steven how his life would be if he said “no”, The Showman then shows him how his life would be if he said “yes”, and sold his soul. The Showman is tempting Steven with a beautiful woman, possibly named Mercy. The song “You’re My Temptation” shows how Steven struggles to withstand the temptation of the woman.
“Mercy please, I'm on my knees/ You're my temptation/Measure my faith, the devil's awake/He knows you're my temptation”
Steven is becoming aware that the Showman may be Satan, or a similar entity. He also struggles with his desire to have sex with Mercy. If he does, he gives in to temptation, accepts what the Showman is offering, and will have to pay with his soul.
“ - Come to me! [Mercy or the Showman] - You're such a liar [Steven] - Won't you come to me [Mercy or the Showman] - Move closer to the fire [Mercy or the Showman] - Just come to me [Mercy or The Showman] - No, no, no [Steven] - Won't you come to me I will set you free [Mercy or The Showman] - No, no, no, no [Steven] “
Steven nearly cries out to God for help, and for a short while he escapes from The Showman. He finds himself alone in the city at night and here he prays (“Stolen Prayer”). However, it isn’t clear whether Steven is praying to God, or talking to the Showman/The Devil. But it is clear that Steven is confused. Meeting the Devil has made him question everything he believed in before.
“I walk the streets alone on feeble bones I ride/My sins are etched in stone, I got no place to hide/Well, I was unshakable in what I did believe/I feel so breakable but have I been deceived”
In the next verse, Steven is clearly talking to the Showman:
“You showed me your paradise and your carnival of souls/But my heart keeps telling me that ain't the place to go/Well, I'm not invincible so I want you to leave/Well, I'm so convincible but have I been deceived”
However, if Steven is talking to God or not, he is now realizing who The Showman is and he decides that he does not want to take part in his carnival, he does not want to sell his soul. He starts to believe in God and gets angry at the Showman. In the song “Unholy War” we learn of Steven’s hatred for the Devil, but also of his faith in God.
“You see my burning fuse from a mile away/I took your cruel abuse, Lord took away my shame/I learned to bite the hand that used to pull my chain/We'll fight, cause we ain't on the same side”
“You're shaking in your boots because it's Judgment Day/I'll get my just rewards and you'll have your hell to pay”
After becoming a Christian, or at least, starting to believe in God, Steven thinks everything is okay. He thinks he’s safe and that The Showman is long gone. He goes to bed, says his prayers and fall asleep. But suddenly he is awaken by The Showman who once again is trying to lure Steven with him (“Lullaby”). But Steven is now stronger than before and can withstand The Showman. He tells The Showman to go back to Hell and leave him alone.
“Get down - back where you started/ Get down - back into hell/ Your black soul, you know you're black hearted/ I smell your sulphurous smell!”
“You can take your whiskey soaked, foaming at the mouth, toilet talking, pea soup spewing, sweating blood demon breath out of my face!”
And after this The Showman disappears, and Steven can sleep through the rest of the night. After this there is a song called “It’s Me”, which is a modern version of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In this version, it’s the same story but the father-son relationship, has been replaced with a man-woman relationship. However, the point of the song and metaphor is the same: God welcomes his child home. In this case, Steven is the lost son who has returned home to his Father. The last track of the album shows how Steven confronts the Showman for the last time and telling him that he knows that The Showman is the Devil and that all he says are lies!
“Do you think I don't know who you are/ A fallen star”
“What about dark What about light What about wrong What about right What about death What about sin What about the web you're trying to spin What about truth What about life What about glory What about Christ What about peace What about love What about faith in God above What about war What about hell What if I stumble What if I fell What about blood What about greed And all of these things you're offering me/
Yeah, what about me Little me You lose, I win You couldn't suck me in It's over, you have no power You're lost And I'm found And I'm, I'm Heaven bound Go back to where you belong To where you fell Go to hell Go!!!”
And thus Steven defeats the Showman and resists temptation.
It could be that The Showman is the same person as the Curator, and since The Showman is likely the Devil, which may also be the case with the Curator. A theory is therefore that Steven isn’t just mentally ill on the first album; he is actually possessed by the Devil. If this is Alice Cooper’s implication, it is most likely that he came up with the possessing of Steven, after or during the making of The Last Temptation. So, when Welcome To My Nightmare first was released, Steven wasn’t possessed, but Alice Cooper then made him possessed with the release of The Last Temptation. Though, this is only a theory amongst some Alice Cooper fans. As stated earlier, the story of The Last Temptation could be a prequel to Welcome To My Nightmare. This is supported by the fact that in the Neil Gaiman comic book The Last Temptation, based on album, The Showman’s last words, after Steven had defeated him, are:
"Do you think it’s over? It’s never over. […] I’m The Showman, and the show never truly ends. I can wait forever. And I will…"
This suggests that The Showman is going to return. And there is nothing on the album or in the comic book that suggests that Steven has met the Showman before, or that he recognises him. The fact that Steven is a young boy during The Last Temptation corresponds with this theory. In the story of Welcome To My Nightmare, Steven is a grown up man and has a wife, who he kills. This implies that The Last Temptation takes place before Welcome To My Nightmare. This could also explain why Steven wants to be a child, and thinks he is a child, on Welcome To My Nightmare. The tragedy that made Steven lose his childhood (that is portrayed in the songs “Years Ago”, “Steven” from WTMN and “Wind-Up Toy” from Hey Stoopid) could be his meeting with The Devil. On the other hand, it is important to note that Alice Cooper is a born again-Christian. He has a subtle Christian message within The Last Temptation story. A boy is tempted by the Devil, but by the grace of God, he defeats him. The whole album is sometimes seen as a metaphor for Satan’s temptation of Jesus Christ, from the Gospels. Taking in account Cooper’s religious beliefs it is unlikely that he would create a story where a child that becomes a Christian and defeats the Devil, later would end up as a psychotic killer. The most likely explanation of which order the stories take place, and how they hang together, is that Welcome to My Nightmare and The Last Temptation are more self-contained that one would first think. The two stories do not really have very much to do with each other. Steven appears in both, the Showman and/or the Curator, appears in both (as well as some other elements), but the albums do not have a logical chronology. One can see The Last Temptation as a sort of “reboot” of Welcome To My Nightmare, just like the movies Batman Begins (2005) is a reboot of 'Batman (1989), or Casino Royale (2006) is a reboot of the whole James Bond series.
Along Came a Spider
This is Alice Cooper’s first real concept album since The Last Temptation. The story is about a serial killer who calls himself “Spider”. He takes one leg from each of his victims and wraps them up in silk. And since there are 8 victims, there are 8 legs – hence “Spider”. After the last track on the album, “I am The Spider”, there is a spoken epilogue which Cooper performs:
"Well, they found my diary today. They were appropriately appalled at the discovery of the eight victims. They're now putting it all together. Women wrapped in silk with one leg missing. Eight legs, one body, silk, spider, brilliant! We've been in this cell for 28 years, Steven. We couldn't have done all those horrible things. Yes, I know. I know what you always say. You trap, you kill, you eat. That's what a good spider does. You trap, you kill, you eat. You trap, you kill, you eat."
Steven also appears in the artwork of the digi-pack casing that the CD comes with. There is a picture of the first page in a book called “Along came a spider”. Under the title there is a text that says: “This book belongs to:” below which someone has written “Steven” with a child’s letters. In the artwork there are also two pictures of Alice himself, at the age of six (according to “Alice Cooper: Golf Monster”). Someone has painted the classic Alice Cooper-makeup on one of the photos and written “Steven” on it.
It is evident that Steven appears on the album. How large his role is in the story is, however, disputed. There are a few theories amongst Alice Cooper-fans. Some think that the Spider and Steven are the same person. Others think that Spider and Steven share the same cell in a mental hospital. Spider says that they’ve been in he same cell for 28 years (since 1980). It could also be that the whole story are the fantasies of the Spider and/or Steven. The 10 minute long music video "Along Came A Spider: The Movie" supports this theory for showing that Alice as Steven/Spider were imagining the whole thing. The fact that the artwork in the CD-set contains old photos of Alice himself with the classic make-up drawn on, along with the name Steven, could support the Steven=Alice Theory. It also worth noting that in the album credits, Alice thanks "Steven (the Spider)", which would seem to support the theory that the Spider and Steven are in fact the same person.
Steven on other albums?
His name is rarely mentioned, but some Alice Cooper fans suspect that he does appear in some form or another on the following albums;
Love it to Death (1971)
Steven does not actually appear on this album. But the song “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” can be seen as a “predecessor” to Steven. According to Alice Cooper, this song was the one that gave him the idea to invent the character of Steven.
Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976)
This album has a text on the original LP inner sleeve that says:
“Lay still, Steven, and I'll tell you a bedtime story. I'll tell you a bedtime story that's not for all children. It's a very special story, that only special children will understand. It's a half-awake story, and it will be better if you close your eyes. It's a story that takes place in a dream, like other nightmares you have known. It's a dream that Alice has dreamed. You can dream along with him. You can follow Alice down the staircase, deep, down the stairs to the pit where he doesn't want to go, but he has to. If you go to sleep now, Steven, you can go down the long and endless stairway and sing sweet songs to Alice and free him. And if you can't get to sleep, Steven, and in the middle of the night you get out of bed, when everything is quiet and the trees are still and the birds are hiding from the dark, you can lie down on your bedroom floor and press your ear tightly to the boards. If you listen very carefully you can hear Alice searching for a way out, forever chasing rainbows. Sleep tight, Steven. And have a good night.”
The music bears a resemblance to the music of Welcome to My Nightmare, and one can see some sort of story structure in the lyrics. However, the story is more possibly about Alice, than about Steven. Steven is just the one who is listening to the bedtime story. The story is about how Alice is sentenced to go to Hell (the song “Go to Hell”). Hell is symbolized by Disco music (“You gotta dance”). In Hell, Alice meets the Devil (“I’m the Coolest”) and realises that he has met him before (“Didn’t We Meet”). This implies that the Curator is in fact The Devil, and that Alice is Steven (something that many Alice Cooper fans think and which is discussed further down on this page, see Steven=Alice). The song “I Never Cry” deals with Alice’s real alcohol problems and in “Give the Kid a Break” Alice’s pleas to the Devil to let him go. In “Guilty” Alice’s says that if doing rock n’ roll dooms him to eternal Hell, than it’s worth it and he is guilty because he loves rock n’ roll and doesn’t care if this makes him guilty. “Wake Me Gently” is a song that connects to the Welcome to My Nightmare-theme, where Alice thinks (or realises) that everything is a nightmare, and wants to wake up. In “Wish You Were Here” Alice’s makes a phone call from Hell to his girlfriend. This song could also be interpreted as a prayer to God, but since Alice hadn’t become a Christian yet (it happened in the early 80’s) this is unlikely. In the song “Going Home” Alice is indeed going home, escaping Hell.
DaDa is an album that revolves around an insane, unnamed character. The character is a cannibal, as revealed in the song, "Fresh Blood." The title track is an instrumental introduction to the album in which we hear fragments of a conversation between a psychologist and his patient. Soon it becomes clear that the patient has a history of violence, cannibalism, and is confused whether he has a son or a daughter.
“[Doctor] Tell me about your son.
[Patient] My son, yeah well, he took care of me. He's took care of me for a long, he still takes care of me. She takes good, and she takes care of me. She takes, she takes good care of me. He takes care of me, Do you believe it. I have a daughter too.
[Doctor] You don't have a daughter.
[Patient] Yeah, I have a daughter, yeah.
[Doctor] A son - you have a son, a son.
[Patient] No I, no I, all I have, I have I have a son, I have a son and a daughter, and a daughter. No, I have a son, daughter, daughter too, and a boy, and a boy “
The patient’s confusion is probably a flirt with the Alice Cooper persona. Alice Cooper is a man with a girl’s name, and therefore the patient could be Alice’s father. In the next song “Enough’s Enough”, it becomes clearer that there is a father character in the story. It’s father of the storyteller (Steven?). We learn that the father was glad when the mother died, and that he kept the storyteller’s brother, Former Lee Warmer, locked up in the attic. Then the songs tells the story of how the main character gets by in America (“No Man’s Land”), how he falls in love (“Dyslexia”), an erotic venture with two women (“Scarlet and Sheba”), what he thinks of his home country (“I love America”), a song about a cannibal like killer (“Fresh Blood”) and at last a suicide epic (“Pass The Gun Around”). It’s mainly the first song, the third “Former Lee Warmer” and the last song on the album, which has made many Alice Cooper fans suspect that the person telling the story is in fact Steven. The themes present on the album, and especially in these three songs resemble those on the “Steven albums”. The Steven=Alice theory (explained further down on this page) supports the hypothesis that Steven is the main character on Dada.
Steven in other media
The Nightmare TV Special
April 25, 1975 equivalent version of the album Welcome To My Nightmare was aired on US television. The program was essentially the album visualized, sort of a long music video or musical. All the songs from the album are performed, plus “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” from the Alice Cooper album “Love it to Death”. Alice Cooper plays the role of Steven, and Vincent Price reprises his role of the Curator. This video is where Price's character is first named. Price's character takes Steven on a journey through the nightmare and the story follows closely to that of the album.
In the film Steven fights off two witches in "Devil's Food" (where he is cooked in a giant pot), giant spiders in "The Black Widow" (who are pets of Vincent Price), and a giant cyclops in "Escape." His wife, Sheryl Cooper plays the part of Ethyl in "Only Women Bleed."
The TV Special was produced by David Winter and was released on Warner Home video in 1983. It was roughly 65 minutes long, and won an Emmy for best videotape editing in a television special in 1976.
The Last Temptation – Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli and Alice Cooper
When the album The Last Temptation was released in 1994, a set of three comic books was released as a complement. The story in these comics follows the story told on the album very closely. We meet Steven, who is a very scared boy. He has friends and a family, and one day he and his friends discover a theatre in an alley. The Showman appears and dares Steven to go in and see the sideshow.
Steven = Alice Theory
Some Alice Cooper fans believe that Steven is actually the same person as Alice Cooper. To understand this, one must understand the Alice Cooper persona. Alice has always talked about his stage persona in third person, and by this he is pointing out that the person he is on stage is not the same person he is in real life. To make it easier we can call the off-stage person Vincent Furnier (which was Alice’s real name until he legally changed it in 1974), and the stage person Alice Cooper. When Vincent was an alcoholic he had difficulties separating himself from Alice. He thought he had to be Alice and behave like him, even offstage. This problem is similar to that Steven has. Vincent Furnier (offstage Alice) is represented by the innocent child-Steven, while Alice Cooper is represented by the adult madman-Steven. This theory supports the idea that Steven appears on DaDa. Taking in mind that Steven is Alice brings a new perspective to the story of The Last Temptation. The story could be a metaphor for when Alice Cooper was “cured” from his alcoholism, and became a Christian in the early 80s. Vincent Furnier’s temptation was alcohol (and behind all temptation lurks the Devil) and when he started to believe in God, he defeated his alcoholism (and thus the Devil). So Alice is Steven, his alcoholism is The Showman, and they are both saved by the same thing: God.
The inside cover of the Along Came A Spider album has two photos - both are of Alice as a child but one has him with the Alice makeup on and Steven written underneath. This again shows the possibility of Steve being Alice. Track 11 of "Welcome To My Nightmare", 'Escape', once again reinforces this theory between Steven=Alice - and could also be what inspired both photos in "Along Came A Spider" with lyrics such as "Paint on my cruel or happy face and hide me behind it."